Two-time champion Simona Halep was eliminated in the third round at the Madrid Masters by Elise Mertens 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in just over 2.5 hours on Tuesday.
Halep, who won the Madrid title in 2016-17 and made the final in 2019, was up a set and a break over the Belgium leading 4-3. Mertens also overcame a break down in the third to collect her second career win over Halep and her sixth win over a Top 5 player.
“I want to be on court as long as possible, especially after losing the first set,” said Mertens after the 15-break affair. “I didn’t think too much about the score, I was just thinking about the way I should play to improve myself.”
Halep has yet to reach a final since Rome last September.
“She played really well, and she definitely deserved to win because she was stronger in the end,” Halep said. “I cannot say I played bad, but I did some mistakes, important mistakes. Sometimes it’s just a little bit and the match is going away.”
Americans went 0-2 on the day as Jen Brady fell to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-7(8), 6-3 and Jessica Pegula got rocked by Aryna Sabalenka 6-1, 6-2.
In the late match, Karolina Muchova toughed out Maria Sakkari 6-0, 6-7(9), 7-5.
“I really, really appreciate to get into quarterfinals,” Muchova said. “Even after the break I had after the Australian Open, I have to say my expectations was pretty low.
“I’m here and I’m really, really glad and really happy and as well for my team. We did some job, and they are helping me a lot, so it shows me that we are doing right way. Yeah, just I’m trying to enjoy it.”
Muchova won’t have much time to rest as the Czech returns Wednesday for a full day of quarterfinals. She’ll face Pavlyuchenkova. Mertens meets Sabalenka, Belinda Bencic battles Paula Badosa and in the marquee match of the day on the women’s side, World No. 1 Ash Barty takes on 3-time champion Petra Kvitova.
Kvitova leads 5-4 but Barty has won four of the last five.
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